495 U.S. 299 (1990), 89-386, Port Authority Trans-hudson Corp. v. Feeney

Docket Nº:No. 89-386.
Citation:495 U.S. 299, 110 S.Ct. 1868, 109 L.Ed.2d 264, 58 U.S.L.W. 4536
Party Name:PORT AUTHORITY TRANS-HUDSON CORPORATION, Petitioner v. Patrick FEENEY.
Case Date:April 30, 1990
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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495 U.S. 299 (1990)

110 S.Ct. 1868, 109 L.Ed.2d 264, 58 U.S.L.W. 4536

PORT AUTHORITY TRANS-HUDSON CORPORATION, Petitioner

v.

Patrick FEENEY.

No. 89-386.

United States Supreme Court.

April 30, 1990[*]

Argued Feb. 26, 1990.

[110 S.Ct. 1869] Syllabus[*]

SYLLABUS

Petitioner Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. (PATH) is an entity created by New York and New Jersey to operate certain transportation facilities. Alleging that they incurred injuries during their employment with PATH, respondents filed separate complaints against PATH in the District Court to recover damages pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act. The court dismissed the complaints on the ground that PATH enjoyed the States' sovereign immunity and thus that the Eleventh Amendment deprived the court of jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals reversed in both cases, holding that the Eleventh Amendment did not bar the suits because, inter alia, any immunity that PATH possessed had been waived under identical statutes of both States, which provided that the States "consent to suits ... against [PATH]," and that "[t]he foregoing consent is granted upon the condition that venue in any [such] suit ... shall be laid within a ... judicial district, established by ... the United States."

Held: The statutory consent to suit provision, as elucidated by the venue provision, establishes the States' waiver of any Eleventh Amendment immunity that might otherwise bar respondents' suits against PATH. It is appropriate here to assume, arguendo, that PATH is a state agency entitled to the States' sovereign immunity. Petty v. Tennessee-Missouri Bridge Comm'n, 359 U.S. 275, 279, 79 S.Ct. 785, 788. In determining whether a State has waived such immunity, this Court applies a particularly strict standard: A waiver will be given effect "only where stated by the most express language or by such overwhelming implication as [will] leave no room for any other reasonable construction." [110 S.Ct. 1870] Atascadero State Hospital v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 239-240, 105 S.Ct. 3142, 3145-3146, 87 L.Ed.2d 171. Moreover, a State does not waive its immunity by consenting to suit only in its own courts, but must specify its intention to subject itself to suit in federal court. Id., at 241, 105 S.Ct., at 3146. Here, the statutory venue provision suffices to resolve any ambiguity contained in the general consent to suit provision by expressly indicating that the States' consent extends to suit in federal court. PATH's argument

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that the venue provision cannot control the construction of the consent to suit provision is rejected. The venue provision directly indicates the extent of the States' waiver embodied in the consent provision, because the States passed both provisions as portions of the same Acts; because the venue provision expressly refers to and qualifies the consent provision; and because venue issues are closely related to immunity issues in that a State's constitutional interest in immunity encompasses not merely whether it may be sued, but where it may be sued. PATH's related argument that the venue provision cannot broaden the consent provision begs the question what the States intended through the latter provision. The venue provision elucidates rather than broadens the consent provision's meaning by removing an ambiguity: The venue provision would hardly qualify "[t]he foregoing consent" unless the States intended that consent to include federal court suits. Furthermore, PATH suggests no "reasonable construction" as an alternative to the interpretation that the phrase "judicial district, established ... by the United States" sets forth consent to suit in federal court. Pp. 1872-1874.

873 F.2d 628 (CA2 1989) and 873 F.2d 633 (CA2 1989), affirmed.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Part I, and the opinion of the Court with respect to Part II, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 1874.

COUNSEL

Joseph Lesser argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Arthur P. Berg, Anne M. Tannenbaum, and Carlene V. McIntyre.

Richard W. Miller argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief was Peter M.J. Reilly.d

d Benna Ruth Solomon and Charles Rothfield filed a brief for the Council of State Governments et al. as amici curiae urging reversal.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for American Airlines, Inc., et al. by Lawrence Mentz; and for Pan American World Airways, Inc., et al. by Raymond T. Munsell.

Joseph Lesser, New York City, for petitioner.

Richard W. Miller, for respondent.

OPINION

Justice O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases call upon the Court to determine whether the Eleventh Amendment bars respondents' suits in federal

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court against an entity created by New York and New Jersey to operate certain transportation and other facilities.

I

In 1921, New York and New Jersey entered a bistate compact creating the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Authority). 1921 N.J.Laws, chs. 151, 154; see N.J.Stat.Ann. § 32:1-1 et seq. (West 1963); N.Y.Unconsol.Laws § 6401 et seq. (McKinney 1979). In accord with the Constitution's Compact Clause, Art. I, § 10, cl. 3, Congress consented to the compact. 42 Stat. 174 (1921). Through the compact, the States created the Authority to achieve "a better co-ordination of the terminal, transportation and other facilities of commerce in, about and through the port of New York," N.J.Stat.Ann. § 32:1-1 (West 1963); N.Y.Unconsol.Laws § 6401 (McKinney 1979), and lodged in the Authority "full power and authority to purchase, construct, lease and/or operate any terminal or transportation facility within [the port] district." N.J.Stat.Ann. § 32:1-7 (1963); N.Y.Unconsol.Laws§ 6407 (McKinney 1979). See generally United States Trust Co. of N.Y. v. New Jersey, 431 U.S. 1, 4-5, 97 S.Ct. 1505, 1508-1509, 52 L.Ed.2d 92 (1977); E. Bard, The Port of New York Authority (1942). The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. (PATH), petitioner in these consolidated cases, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Authority that operates an interstate railway system and other facilities. PATH is entitled to "all of the privileges, immunities, tax exemptions and other exemptions of the port authority" [110 S.Ct. 1871] and is subject to suit to the same extent as the Authority. See N.J.Stat.Ann. § 32:1-35.61 (West 1963); N.Y.Unconsol.Laws § 6612 (McKinney 1979).

Respondents Patrick Feeney and Charles Foster alleged injuries incurred during their employment with PATH. Both filed separate complaints against PATH in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to recover damages pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability

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Act (FELA), 35 Stat. 65, as amended, 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. (1982 ed.), the Boiler Inspection Act, 36 Stat. 913, as amended, 45 U.S.C. § 22 (1982 ed.), and the Safety Appliance Act, 27 Stat. 531, 45 U.S.C. § 1 (1982 ed.). PATH moved to dismiss both complaints, asserting that PATH enjoyed New York and New Jersey's sovereign immunity and thus that the Eleventh Amendment deprived the federal court of jurisdiction over the suits. Relying in part on Port Authority Police Benevolent Assn., Inc. v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 819 F.2d 413 (CA3), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 953, 108 S.Ct. 344, 98 L.Ed.2d 370 (1987), the District Court concluded that the Eleventh Amendment deprived it of jurisdiction and dismissed respondents' complaints. App. to Pet. for Cert. A-27, A-46. In Port Authority Police Benevolent Assn., the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reasoned that because the States had established the Authority as a state agency and continued to exercise extensive control over its operations, the Authority was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. 819 F.2d, at 413. The court also found no waiver of that immunity. Id., at 418, n. 2.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the Eleventh Amendment did not bar Feeney's suit because "the Eleventh Amendment immunity either does not extend to [PATH] or has been waived." 873 F.2d 628, 628-629 (1989). The court concluded that PATH did not enjoy the States' sovereign immunity, principally because the treasuries of New York and New Jersey are largely insulated from PATH's liabilities. Id., at 631-632. In reaching its conclusion that the States had waived any immunity that PATH possessed, the court relied upon two provisions of an Act governing suits against the Authority and its subsidiaries and passed by New York (in 1950) and New Jersey (in 1951). 1951 N.J.Laws, ch. 204; 1950 N.Y.Laws, ch. 301; see N.J.Stat.Ann. § 32:1-157 et seq. (West 1963); N.Y.Unconsol.Laws § 7101et seq. (McKinney 1979). The first section provided that the States "consent to suits, actions or proceedings of any form

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or nature at law, in equity or otherwise ... against the Port of New York Authority." N.J.Stat.Ann. § 32:1-157 (West 1963); N.Y.Unconsol.Laws § 7101 (McKinney 1979). Another section provided in part:

"The foregoing consent [of N.J.Stat.Ann. § 32:1-157; N.Y.Unconsol.Laws§ 7101] is granted upon the condition that venue in any suit, action or proceeding against the Port Authority shall be laid within a county or a judicial district, established by one of said States or by the United States, and situated wholly or partially within the Port of New York District. The Port Authority shall be deemed to be a resident of each such county or judicial district for the purpose of such suits, actions, or proceedings." N.J.Stat.Ann. § 32:1-162 (West 1963); N.Y.Unconsol.Laws § 7106 (McKinney 1979).

The court concluded that, despite the "somewhat anomalous" location of an indication of waiver in a venue...

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